15 December, Tuesday — Keeping your word

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Zep 3:1-2,9-13
Mt 21:28-32

Which of the two did his father’s will?

I have been told recently to be a sister and not a mother to my sibling. I am still figuring out what it really means. How does a mother/sister behave when faced with the same situation? I frankly do not have a straight answer. I know of families who fight and quarrel over property and money. I know of some families who stand by each other in good and bad times. Surely a mother or sister acting in love would do what is best for the child/sibling. What type of sister am I to be?

I joked with a friend – that there are well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ whose default response is ‘I will pray for you’ whenever they hear that the other is going through challenging times. Maybe the next time someone shares their problem with me, I should simply say ‘I will pray for you’, and leave them to their own devices. Is that loving? Is that what I should say to my sibling?

To me, that’s a cop out! Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Not that prayers are not valued. Indeed they are; when you are sincere about it. It means so much to me when someone makes space for me and listens to my ranting and raving, when I am down and hopeless. Then when they sincerely say, “I can’t do much but I can be here for you and pray for you.” That, is the difference – being present, being there and offering to pray for and with me. Verbal courtesy, and politeness could never take the place of deeds. Only through deeds can we prove that we really love someone.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 Jn 3:18

Today’s gospel reading is about the parable of the two sons, whose father tells them to go work in his vineyard. The first son answers with almost contemptuous bluntness, tells his father that he won’t go, but ends up working all day among the vines. The second one, who appears to be a good and abiding son, tells his father that he will but doesn’t do it.

The gospel reminds us of something we often forget — words can be meaningless. Promises are empty when not followed by action. We value people who keep their word to us. We appreciate those who are true to the promises that they make to us.

The meaning of this story is clear. The first son represents the tax collectors and sinners. Their lifestyle looked like a blatant refusal to have anything to do with religion or God; and yet when Jesus came, they listened to him and changed their way of life. The second son represents the priests, scribes, and Pharisees. They had only one profession in their lives — that they would serve God and obey his commandments; and yet when the Son of God came, they completely ignored Him and, in the end, they crucified Him.

The greatest liability the church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians. We so self-righteously go and ‘teach and preach’ the gospel, but don’t live the gospel life.

Well, which am I? The smooth but unreliable daddy-pleaser? Or the one who, even with a bad decorum, does the job? On first evaluation, we would think that the first son is better – the one who did as his father asked. Frankly, none of the two sons is perfect. Both hurt the father in some degree. On reflection, I am both sons — a sinner and a Pharisee. How many times have I said ‘Yes’ to God, only to not come through on my commitment? There are other times I have been so stubborn and principled that I will outright refuse to budge, only to do the exact opposite because a stirring in my heart tells me to be a Christian in action and words.

The kingdom of heaven is not promised to the charmers, but to those whose life would make no sense if God did not exist. Those who refuse God but later repent and obey, like the first son, will go into the kingdom. And they will go in before those who say yes, but don’t obey God, like the second son. And the leaders won’t get in at all unless they repent.

We need to make sure we are working in the vineyard, doing God’s will; using our gifts and doing all that God tells us to do. I am preparing myself and aiming for heaven! Actions speak louder than words!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: May God Almighty shower upon us His grace in abundance.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for being so loving and patient with us.

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